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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Do you love Him more than father or mother?

  So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,
 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.
 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
  (Matt 10:32-39)
It is no big thing to claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  It is no small thing to actually be one.  There are many in the church who serve and pray and do all of the right outward things, but who will be shown to be imposters on the last day (Matt 7:21-23).  The doing is nothing if the doing is not a true reflection of a converted heart. 
In Matthew 10, Jesus spoke of the characteristics of a true disciple.  He was sending His disciples out on a missionary journey, and this mission was one that would lead to ridicule, rejection, persecution, torture, and for some, even death.  All of those things would come as a result of acknowledging Christ before men and taking up one’s cross and following Him.  Choosing to follow Christ in the face of such horrible treatment is a line that still divides those who are truly disciples and those who merely claim to be. 
But what is it in the heart of a true disciple that compels Him to follow even when the world hates him for it?  Or said another way, what is it that is missing in the heart of the one who claims to be a disciple but who ceases to follow when the consequences are costly?
The answer is in v37.  It is the only verse in the passage that speaks of the heart as opposed to outward actions.  What separates the true disciple from the imposter is a heart that values Christ above all other human relationships: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  Love of Christ is the force that makes it a beloved thing in the heart of a disciple to follow Him into the fire.
It is telling that Jesus uses close family relationships to make this point.  Jesus of all people knew the cost of being faithful in spite of the opposition of family members.  In John 7, His brothers teased Him about His miracles and tried to coax Him into going public.  V5 gives this commentary, “For not even His brothers believed in Him.”  Concerning His rejection by those closest to Him, Jesus said in Matt 13:57, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household."
This is why Jesus said what we find in Matthew 10:35:  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  Jesus Himself is a line in the sand.  Not everyone in your family nor everyone in my family will follow Christ.  And if we live lives of radical obedience to Him, we will likely be ridiculed, scorned, and rejected by those we love the most.  Indeed, the most vehement reaction against us may come from loved ones more than strangers.
I’m thankful to have benefitted from the example of others who have valued Christ above the praise of men.  When I was in high school, my dad was offered a ministry position at a church in Dayton.  It was clear to him and my mom that the Lord was leading in that direction, but from a human perspective it made no sense.  He had three teenage kids heavily involved in church and school activities.  He already had a valuable ministry as a lay leader in his current church.  He was a Certified Public Accountant with his own accounting firm and was well-respected in the community. 
Moving to Ohio would mean leaving much behind.  On top of that, it would mean receiving much less, in worldly terms.  To take the church position he would take a 50% pay cut.  He would sell his house for a loss and be moving to a place with a far less favorable housing market.  In fact, for the foreseeable future, he and his family would have to settle for a small apartment.
But perhaps the biggest consideration…ALL the extended family on both his and my mother’s sides of the family lived in Texas, ALL within half a day's driving distance.  Moving would mean living 20 hours from the nearest relative, a sea of land separating his children from their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  For that reason, some relatives made it clear that my dad’s moving his family to Ohio would mean being disowned.
But the Lord called.  And my dad went.  It enraged some.  Others it plunged into despair.  Only now, 18 years later, are some of the family relations beginning to thaw.  It made no sense to anyone but my dad, his wife and children, and His Lord.  To my knowledge, he never waivered; he just obeyed.  He loved Christ more than father or mother.
My sisters and I all found spouses “among the yankees” and produced a cumulative 11 grandchildren for my parents.  We’ve enjoyed the blessing of living in the same town for over a decade now.  But a call to further ministry has beckoned my parents back to Texas.  From a human perspective, it makes no sense for them to go.  In Ohio, they are able to spend every holiday with their kids and grandkids.  They can attend every birthday party, piano recital, baptism, and sporting event.  They can watch closely as their grandchildren grow and change.  Moving to Texas will mean all of that goes away, being replaced by a few days together once or twice a year.
But the Lord has called.  And they are going.  I’m sure somewhere there are some who are shaking their heads with incredulity.  But I can assure you that is true of none of us who are being left behind.  We have come to expect such things from my parents.  They love Christ more than son or daughter.
We are sad, to be sure.  But we are comforted by the knowledge that we will share joys in eternity that far outshine any blessings of this world.  Now is the time to pour ourselves out in service to the Lord.  They are following by going to Texas, we are following by staying here, all motivated by the surpassing riches of Christ.
An intense affection for the Savior above all human relationships is the condition of the heart that produces a burning desire to serve Him wherever He takes us.  I have seen this in my parents.  I’ve also had the privilege of seeing it in others, like my in-laws, and in Ken and Amy Ebert.  These people have all done crazy things in obedience to the Lord, by their actions declaring to all, “whatever the cost, we will follow Christ.”
What about you?  Are earthly affections preventing you from surrendering all?  If so, you are turning down eternal rewards in order to hold on to momentary vapors.  May the Lord kindle in us all a love for Himself that drives us to pick up our cross and follow Him.
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” Matt 19:29

Posted by Greg Birdwell

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